LeeTown Model Service, Inc. is the trading name adopted by the partnership of Lee Snover and Darryl Townsend for their professional modeling activities. As a trading enterprise, LeeTown specialised in Narrow Gauge Railways, Geared Locomotives and high quality (Micro-motor) transmissions. From the 1970’s onwards, they were well known for their On3 Climax locomotive parts and kits, but they also played a significant role in the commercial development of Maine On2 modelling.
LeeTown have always traded from a Belvidere NJ address. Darryl Townsend moved away from this area, and produced some models under the Town Models banner in Illinois. Click here to view the Town Models topic.
Wes Ewell, a noted Maine Two Foot fan, shared a couple of reminiscences of LeeTown in the early days (circa 1965 – 1970) of Maine On2 modelling on the Yahoo! group;-
Darryl Townsend, Lee Snover, Charlie Brommer, John Derr, and I were all charter members of the Mid-Atlantic Narrow Gauge Group that Don Brown brought together nearly 50 years ago. We would gather at Don’s house in Summit (NJ) every month to share ideas and interests. We quickly became a production group, though, working together to produce drawings, kits, parts, and finished models. Darryl was teaching obstetrics at Temple University in Philadelphia, but later moved to Chicago. Lee and Charlie continued on their own. John and I collaborated on drawings for 20 years. Those were very active years for the two-foot community.
-Wes Ewell- 5 Aug 2015
Forty years ago I did a bunch of catalog and ad drawings for Lee Snover in exchange for models and parts. One of those was one of the first brass Forneys and his etched tank for #22. This was a most unusual piece in that it was etched in the round, not rolled from a flat etching. I think Terry Smith bought mine when I switched to Sn2. If you can find one today it is worth every dear penny you might have to pay for it. The #14 resin tanks that Jim Eagan sold were also excellent and worth the $130 that the one just sold for on eBay. –Wes – 24 November 2010
Terry Smith wrote;- I did acquire Wes’s model of tank #22 via Bob Werner of the Hobbybarn, see below.
Editors’ note; the heyday of LeeTown’s activities in Maine On2 (circa 1970 -75 or so) predates my own exposure and interest. LeeTown also had their own approach to advertising by using a mixture of formal display adverts in the Narrow Gauge modeling magazines, which sometimes included future plans with invitations to write in for more info, or statements such as more info in new catalog and the occasional “snippets” and pictures of new parts released to columnists and reviewers which were used in Editorials, mixed in with occasional use of classified adverts.
Looking through the old issues of the Narrow Gauge modeling magazines these days, it is not that obvious whether some of the parts mentioned were made by LeeTown themselves or whether they were acting as retailers, and whether the items actually ever appeared (see the update below for further information).
With these factors in mind here’s a brief overview of the significant points of LeeTown’s Maine On2 activities (subject to confirmation and change);-
November 1969 Finelines: advert suggesting that a batch of 25 SR&RL #6 models was in process for delivery in late 1970, $50 deposit to reserve.
September 1971 Finelines: editorial and advert about the new process B&SR/B&H Tank Cars.
January 1972 Finelines: editorial about the SR&RL #6 and Forney superstructure etches.
March 1973 Slim Gauge News: editorial showing On2 swing motion trucks (as used under the B&H tank cars) complete with brake beams and Grandt Line wheelsets. These could be parts supplied by SRECo.
March 1974 Finelines: advert offering SR&RL Railcar#5 plus future plans for a batch of B&SR loco #7 for release in late 1975 or 1976.
September 1974 Finelines: LeeTown featured as a parts supplier in a Hobbybarn advert announcing the CB SR&RL #6 and offering an alternative set of parts for the home constructor.
Update 05-12-2016: Layton (Lee) Snover has been in touch, initially to renew his acquaintance with Wes Ewell, and has provided the following information;-
In regard to the locomotive models mentioned in the adverts (the SR&RL #6 from November 1969 and the B&SR #7 from March 1974) and whether these were ever built, Lee replied “NJ Custom Brass (Nick and Jack) got in contact and announced that they would import the models. Also the SR&RL Railbus #5.”
Lee continued “On3 proved to be a larger market, so I did the Climax models and lost my shirt! By 1977 I had stopped the On3 even and in ’78 went into making HO Scale cars and trucks. I sold that line to Portman Hobby Dist. in 1986.”
“In 1992, I started up again making On3/O ga. “Critters” (small industrial locos), even a few in On2!. About 2003 I stopped making Industrial locos and switched to re-powering older brass Shays, by Sunset and Iron Horse. I still do, and also make custom rebuilds of those into other prototypes for the loggers.”
“Darryl Townsend made the brass tanks, etchings, so I have no idea of quantity. Darryl passed away in 2015.”
“One other notable job from the Mid 70’s was that LeeTown made a Mt. Gretna RR 2′ gauge 4-4-0 for a fella who worked for the Lebanon Pa. newspaper, in 1/2″ Scale. The model was featured in Model Railroader Magazine in color. It was supposed to go to a Museum, but ended up in his living room wall, in a glass walled cut-out, so he could see both sides.”
SR&RL #6 in On2 RTR?
This is the advert from the November 1969 edition of Finelines magazine which introduced the SR&RL #6 model.
LeeTown Model Service Bridgton Tanks
LeeTown Model Service announced their Bridgton Tank models (note completed tanks only) with this advert in the September 1971 edition of Finelines magazine. Component parts had been advertised during the preceding year as they became available.
Note that the phrase “a new process etched tank” in the above advert is believed to refer to the basic tank body being a brass tube that was etched in the round. It is also believed that LeeTown used the same sized brass tube for both the smaller #22 tank and the larger #14 tank, resulting in the #14 tank appearing undersized.
This model of B&SR/B&HR tank #22 was acquired second-hand from Wes Ewell via Bob Werner of The Hobby Barn. Wes has stated that he received this model as part payment for drawings and catalog illustrations that he did for Lee Snover of LeeTown around 1970. Given that date, the flat car that the tank is mounted on would have been scratch built.
This model of B&SR/B&HR tank #21/#14 consists of a Leetown etched “in the round” brass tube tank, (obtained as raw etched brass tube from Bob Werner of the Hobbybarn) which was expanded to the correct diameter and finished off with Portland Products tank ends, dome, safety valve, necklace, ladder and handrail supports. It was mounted on a flat car built from an SRCS 30 foot B&SR flatcar kit with a scratch built cradle and straps.
SR&RL Railbus #5 in kitform + RTR & future B&SR loco #7?
This is a cut-down copy of the advert from the March 1974 edition of Finelines magazine which offered SR&RL Railbus #5 in kit form and RTR and which also announced future plans for a batch of B&SR loco #7 for release in late 1975 or 1976.
SR&RL #6: set of parts
This Hobby Barn advert from the September 1974 Fineline magazine lists LeeTown as a supplier “………..for those who wish the challenge of constructing the engines themselves…….”. People who knew Bob Werner would not find it hard to imagine the smile on his face as he wrote those words.
In the context of this blog and this post, Narrow Gauge modeling magazines refers collectively to Finelines, Slim Gauge News and the Narrow Gauge and Short Lines Gazette. These are now available on DVD from Bob Hayden. Click here for more information.
All adverts from Finelines and the Narrow Gauge and Short Lines Gazette magazines appear by kind permission of Bob Brown, Editor and Co-owner.